Thursday, August 2, 2012
Sometimes the Epicurean culture needs new terms to keep track of all the updates. Think about it: None of the now-commonplace terms like “locavore,” “gastropub,” “probiotic,” “slow food” – or even “sustainable” and “foodie” – broke into mainstream vocabulary until the last five or 10 years.
With that in mind, the Weekly is happy to introduce the latest key edible term: “quick-nics.”
The perfect quick-nic: grabbing a high-grade sandwich-to-go and finding a sunny outdoor spot to nosh, affording a moment of relaxation, satisfaction and vitamin D within a limited lunch hour. The perfect time to do it: summer. I even conducted my tasty breaks during National Picnic Month, July. To further sanction the sandwich search, I brought in the foremost expert in the sandwich I know, my dad, who believes the sandwich is the highest form of culinary art. If he could, he’d turn every meal into a sandwich (and often does, whether with waffles or crackers as the “bread”). And as it so happens, August is National Sandwich Month. Here are some suggestions on how to go about it, sorted by geography:
The Wild Goose Café (18 East Carmel Valley Road, 659-5052) has regular-sized sandwiches ($6.95) on fresh-baked organic bread, but I couldn’t resist the selection of ready-to-go versions on mini baguettes ($3). I ordered three – ham, turkey and veggie – to share with my dad, along with two of the world’s tastiest morning glory muffins ($2.75 each). The minis offer a bite-sized portion of sandwich fixings that don’t overpower the small-sized loaves, very well-scaled to go with a cup of coffee, Dad points out. The Carmel Valley Community Park (24 Ford Road off West Carmel Valley Road), located less than a minute west, offers shady picnic tables or a sunny lawn; we opt to bask in the sun and people – and dog-watch while we enjoy the sandwiches.
Just one block away from the Presidio of Monterey lies Campagno’s (2000 Prescott Ave., 375-5987), a favorite eatery for many students at the Defense Language Institute. There is a lunchtime crush for huge sandwiches that rival the size of my head and are (easily) big enough for two. Dad orders the half-sized Coast Guard Special ($7.99), which is a fragrant combination of hot corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing on toasted marble rye bread. I tried a whole veggie ($9.99) with sprouts, mushrooms, avocado, cucumbers, bell peppers and trimmings on a slab of flat French bread. The girth alone of the sandwiches make tables a must when consuming these beasts, and the nearby Hilltop Park (865 Jessie St.) and its ample benches prove to be a great location. This park has two play areas for kids as well as tennis and basketball courts for a pre-chowdown showdown.
Iconically housed in a repurposed vintage filling station on the east side of Oldtown, The Bakery Station (202 Monterey St., 783-1140) has become Sandwich Dad’s go-to spot for his daily fix. His regular order is the VW ($6.75) – carrots, jalapeño, apples, sprouts, white cheddar, tomatoes, red onions and cilantro aioli on freshly-baked whole wheat bread. There are a lot of flavors in this tuned-up take on a vegetarian sandwich, with a nuanced-but-light result. The apple slices add a crisp sweetness, which meshes nicely with the spice of the hot peppers and the sharpness of the cheese. For slightly denser lunchtime fare, I tried the Bel Air ($8.95) with turkey breast, bacon, gouda and trimmings on sourdough bread. To get the sandwiches to go, ask for them “on wheels”; the generous paper sacks will easily fit a sandwich and one of the many oversized treats (cookies, brownies, scones and muffins all fresh-baked on site, $0.60-$3.25). A two – or three-minute drive to the west side lands us in Central Park (420 Central), a favorite family picnic hangout.
My more-carnivorous friends swear by Bruno’s Market’s (Sixth and Junipero, 624-3821) tri-tip sandwich ($6.49), which my dad has in mind, but the hot sandwich guy is out sick, so Dad reverts to his standard metric, the BLT ($5.99), with a side of tabbouleh salad. I order the egg salad ($5.49) on whole wheat with lettuce and tomato. The lunchtime rush is busy; we order using the required forms and mini pencils. The egg salad emerges solid but not life-changing. Dad’s BLT has plenty of crisp bacon, but gets outshined by the delicate tabbouleh. Since we managed to park nearby, there’s no need to get back in the car. We cross the street to well-groomed Devendorf Park (Junipero and Ocean), eating on one of the many benches.
The hearty subs sold at La Sala’s Bi-rite Market (250 Casa Verde Way, 372-6824) have earned a priority ranking from hardworking Seaside contractors. Customers use salad tongs to select their preferred roll from the self-serve shelves to the right of the counter. I select a French roll for my usual turkey sandwich ($5.99) with provolone and pickles. My lunch date orders the breaded chicken special ($6.99) with bacon and ranch (there are different hot specials each day; look out for the popular calamari on Fridays). The market also offers a wide selection of chips, drinks and treats. I snag a fresh-baked Snickerdoodle at the register for dessert. We head west across Del Monte Avenue, up the hill to Surf Way (along Monterey State Beach), and in two minutes, we were bounding a short way along the boardwalk to the nearby picnic table with a view of the crashing waves. My turkey sandwich fulfills all comfort-food requirements, with an excellent cold cut-to-roll ratio. The chicken sandwich was heavy on the bacon, but there can never be too much bacon. Quick, tasty… and very much worthy of a brand new word.